Rising stars of Australian hip hop, Tuka and Ellesquire are uniting their emcee skills for the first time.
Perhaps best known for their collaborative projects – Thundamentals and Loose Change, respectively – the Triple J favourites are performing side-by-side at the moment on the Big Village tour, and at Manifest this weekend.
“I felt like we were the only two solo artists on [Big Village Records] that have put out albums … and I really respect him as an artist,” Tuka explains on what inspired the collaboration. “I think it was actually his idea that we should do a tour and a set together.”
Ellesquire says the idea to do a duel set-list was sparked after he saw rappers Slug (Atmosphere) and Brother Ali perform together.
“They came out and did a joint set where they were still playing their own songs but just kind of backing each other up. It sounded cool so we thought we'd try and do the same thing – and given that Tuka and I have a liking for each other’s style and music it seemed like a good fit. Also, it lets you be a bit lazy because you don't have to do the whole thing yourself if you've got someone who's helping you out,” he laughs.
Like professional wrestlers competing for the tag team championship title, Tuka and Ellesquire will duke out their tunes on a song-by-song basis, occasionally aiding one another for an added punch.
“It's song for song [but] I think there are a couple of tunes where I'll do a couple in a row and I think Tuka does as well. Whenever it's my tune, I take the lead and Tuka takes a step back and helps me out on the hooks and backs me up – sort of like a hype man. Then I do the same thing for his songs. We just try to have fun with it and bounce around looking like fools.”
Ellesquire continues, explaining the duo's mutual approach of melding rhythmic rhymes alongside melodic hooks has paved the way for a unique live show.
“When we do the hooks it's good because Tuka has got a different register vocally, so we can both do the hooks and make it sound a lot fuller. Whereas when I'm doing my solo shows, it's usually just me and often the choruses … [differ] from when I recorded them because they have layers and layers of vocals on them. Tuka and I doing it together really sounds like it fills it up; it makes it sound richer and thicker having two separate vocalists – we seem to be able to hit each other’s choruses quite well.”
And with Tuka’s sophomore solo album, ‘Feedback Loop’, slated for release in October, fans will be given a preview of his follow-up to 2010’s ‘Will Rap For Tuka’.
“I'll probably play about two songs from my first record because I've only got about 20 minutes,” Tuka says. “I've got this weird freestyle thing in the middle and the rest will be fresh material that no one's heard. I don't expect a huge response because it's only the second time I'll be playing it live – I played it last night at BIGSOUND. But Ellesquire's content is quite known and because we're going song for song, I think we'll get dynamics out of that.”
Ellesquire elaborates, and advises fans to expect plenty of on-stage theatrics between songs.
“We're making it more of a performance, instead of playing a song, playing a song, playing a song. We have a bit of banter together, which makes it more of a show that's entertaining for people instead of just getting up and standing there with your mic and doing your songs.”
And with expectations held high, it’s surprising to learn the emcees haven’t spoken about writing music together in the future.
“We haven't spoken about it but in the back of my mind I'd really like to do an EP together at some stage,” Tuka says. “It probably wouldn't be a whole record; it probably would be a smaller project. Because at the moment I'm in Thundamentals and I do my solo thing, and he's in Loose Change and does the solo thing. It's like there's just no time left.”
Ellesquire adds: “We always want to make songs together, but we haven't really discussed the option of making an entire album but I wouldn't put it past us. Like I said, we're both fans of each other’s music [and] we gel together quite well, so you never know. I'll put it to him.”Tuka & Ellesquire play Manifest at Bestbrook Mountain Resort September 28-30. Manifest Festival